Legitimising Evaluation for Vocational Learning: From Bastard Sibling to Equal Brother

John Guenther, Allan Arnott

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Paper published in Proceedingspeer-review


Within the world of systematic inquiry in the field of education the tacit distinction between research and evaluation has been such that the latter is subsumed by the former. There are a number of reasons for this. First, evaluation generally follows research in acronyms and publications (e.g. National VET Research and Evaluation Program). Second, the unstated assumption in much of the theory and practice literature is that evaluation is aligned with assessment and judgement while research is about the creation of new knowledge. Third, there is sometimes an obfuscated assumption that evaluation looks back at the particular while research looks forward to the general. 

This paper explores the proposition that evaluation as a discipline within the field of vocational learning in Australia is undervalued, underutilised and misunderstood. This is confirmed by a quick review of Australian conference papers and journal articles in recent years, which reveals relatively few examples of papers based on evaluations. The authors’ experiences are reflected in two case study illustrations from practice that demonstrate how the methodologies and learnings of evaluations can be used in much the same way as research outputs can.

We argue that while there are distinctions between evaluation and research, as disciplines they may be used for the same purpose (e.g. to improve practice or develop policy), use similar methodologies (e.g. empirical data driven processes), and result in the creation of new knowledge (particular or general). Further, one strength of evaluations is that they benefit from working within programs and are often integrated within a program. The authors contend that the perceived worth of vocational learning evaluations can and should be elevated to the same status as research programs. For this to happen, evaluators need to promote their work more actively and demonstrate the outcomes in terms of new knowledge, improved practice and policy development. 
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of AVETRA 14th Annual Conference
Place of Publicationonline
PublisherAustralian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA)
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)987-0-9805275-3-7
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventAustralian Vocational Education and Training Research Association Annual Conference (AVETRA 2011 14th) - Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 28 Apr 201129 Apr 2011
Conference number: 2011 (14th)


ConferenceAustralian Vocational Education and Training Research Association Annual Conference (AVETRA 2011 14th)
Abbreviated titleAVETRA


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